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Thread: Tripod Heads Help

  1. #1

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    Tripod Heads Help

    I am trying to sort out which tripod head to buy. Currently using a pistol grip - thought it would be easy to use, but am not happy with the slippage/creeping when I set it and it doesn't stay there. I like to photograph wildlife, landscapes, birds, just about anything. My camera is a Nikon D7000, my largest lens is a Nikon 55-300mm. Want to be able to quickly adjust the camera's orientation, and have the focus point where I want it.

    From my research, I have figured out that a good ball head ought to be my best option. They range widely in price, and I do want to have one that will accommodate a larger lens eventually, but not anything super-huge. My understanding is that the best heads are from Markins, Really Right Stuff, and Arca-Swiss.

    Some less costly heads have been suggested, some of which do not specify the ball size, so I am not sure what I should choose. (I have heard that a ball should be at least 36mm diameter.) I spent $160 for the first head, figured I might have to go over $200, but now looking at the better recommended heads, looks like I have to consider paying more like $300! Several of the less expensive suggestions I have heard: SIRUI K-20x, Feisol CB40, Manfrotto 498RC2, Giottos MH-1302 Pro Series II. The more expensive include: RRS BH-30LR, RRS BH-40LR, Markins Q-10 or Q-20.

    If anyone can give me some specific pros and cons to help choose, it would be great! Thank you.

    Susan

  2. #2

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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    My first ball head was the Manfrotto 322RC2 (pistol grip) which worked reasonably well.

    Quick and easy to use for those fast wildlife shots. Although I did reverse the handle so I could operate it with my left hand while my free right index finger hovered above the shutter button.

    Yes a little bit of slippage did occur when using a large lens which was facing downwards; but otherwise no problems.

    Now, I use the Manfrotto 468MGRC4 which is absolutely solid no matter what equipment I use.

    Probably not quite so quick as it means two locking buttons. But very simple to lock with a slight twist because the lever and twist button are large and comfortably placed. Very strong and with a quick release attachment plate; which has a safety lock.

    Also has an optional large screw for special equipment which uses a larger diameter screw. And it has two spirit levels on the ball head.

  3. #3

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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    Susan I personally use the Feisol CB50DC and have found it to be an excellent ballhead. Because I use an L-Bracket from RRS on my camera bodies, I swapped the Feisol clamp for the RRS quick release clamp. For myself I have found this to be an excellent choice. Ball heads are like tripods, save up and get the best one you can, the reason is only when you add up all you spend on each choice you could have saved yourself money if you had only waited and gotten the better one.

    Cheers:

    Allan

  4. #4
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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    Curiously enough, I've just come back from perusing the camera stores looking for a replacement tripod/head as the head on my current (and ancient) tripod did not survive the trip to Australia.

    I've decided I like the Manfrotto 498 head. It feels solid and I don't think it will give with my camera on top. According to the Manfrotto website it is capable of supporting 8kg. My theory here is that I should aim high... if my camera and lens come in at say 4kg, then I need to look at something rated for twice that.

    My honest suggestion would be to go to the local camera store and ask to play with the heads... see what you like/don't like and what feels right in your hands.

    Unfortunately, I'm going to have to save "my allowance" for a bit longer as I want to match it up with a decent set of legs (Manfrotto 055xPROB)....
    Last edited by CP140; 11th March 2013 at 01:17 AM. Reason: Fix typing mistrake

  5. #5
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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    Susan,

    I think it depends on what you want to use it for. I would ignore a rule like >36 mm. The general pattern is that all other things being equal, larger balls will be smoother, but I can't see why there is anything specific about 36mm. I use two heads, given my particular uses. One is a huge, heavy Manfrotto geared head that I use for tabletop macro because it is capable of fine adjustments, but I would never carry the thing around with me. My other one I carry on my back, and I want it to be light. So, I compromised on a relatively small head, the Induro BHDO. I don't think it is on a par with some of the expensive and larger heads, but for my purposes (my largest lens is a 70-200 f/4 IS, with an extender), it works just fine, and it does not add a lot of weight to my pack. I'm not recommending that particular one, just suggesting that you are probably going to face some tradeoffs.

  6. #6

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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    Slippage is the result of not balancing the load on a ball head. I find most small ball heads will move as you tighten them if they have any load on them. Personally I like the pistol heads for natural history, like the ability to quickly follow subject and then lock head just by releasing. To balance the load I use the manfrotto long plates which enable me to slide the camera to and fro, also handy for macro work.

  7. #7
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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    I personally like ball heads and have had a few. Originally I used Manfrotto ball heads and was pretty happy with them. A few years ago I converted everything over to Really Right Stuff love their ball heads but they are pricey. As Loose mentioned above, it is really important to balance the lens and camera over the head. Once this is done even the cheaper ball heads will start to work pretty well. If you go over the the Arca Swiss style mounts it is very easy to install a plate between the camera and the head when needed. The plate can also double for nodal point adjustments when doing panoramas.

  8. #8

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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Polar01 View Post
    Ball heads are like tripods, save up and get the best one you can, the reason is only when you add up all you spend on each choice you could have saved yourself money if you had only waited and gotten the better one.
    Thanks Allan. I tried to buy a good one, but made a mistake! Now I want to correct that. Thank you for the recommendation for the Feisol head.

    Susan

  9. #9

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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    Quote Originally Posted by CP140 View Post
    My honest suggestion would be to go to the local camera store and ask to play with the heads... see what you like/don't like and what feels right in your hands.(Manfrotto 055xPROB)....
    Wish I had a local camera store to go to! The closest one closed up last fall - part of a chain that closed several stores. However, we are planning a trip over to New Hampshire, and might find one over there. The only other (best!) option is to take a day trip to NY City (4hrs drive) and visit the B&H superstore. Of course, I would have to be ready to spend enough to make it worthwhile!

    Susan

  10. #10

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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    Quote Originally Posted by PhotomanJohn View Post
    A few years ago I converted everything over to Really Right Stuff love their ball heads but they are pricey. ...As Loose mentioned above, it is really important to balance the lens and camera over the head. ...If you go over the the Arca Swiss style mounts it is very easy to install a plate between the camera and the head when needed. The plate can also double for nodal point adjustments when doing panoramas.
    Thanks loosecanon and John for your comments.

    I don't know anything about balancing the lens and camera over the head. I have a quick-release plate that came with the head and it only fits on one way. Could you please explain what you mean, and how it is done? What is a "nodal point adjustment"?

    RRS is one of the heads I have heard is one of the better ones. Do you think it is worth the extra price? That is what I am trying to find out before making a choice. I don't like spending $300+ for a head, but if it will work for me then I won't have to buy another one - maybe never!

    Susan

  11. #11
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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    Susan - I have included a photo of what I mean by balancing the camera and lens over the head. It becomes so much easier to handle since you don't feel the weight and stays put much better as you tighten the ball clamp. What you see here is the camera mounted on a rail that is mounted into the RSS quick release on the ball head. With the release on the ball head loose the camera can be slid back and forth until its weight is balanced. The Arca Swiss style clamps make putting this sort of thing together really easy and quick.

    [IMG]Tripod Heads Help[/IMG]

    The comment about nodal point is too involved for this response but deals with taking multiple photos to splice together to make one panorama. If you want the images to line up perfectly the camera needs to be rotated about the optical center of the lens often called its nodal point. I have a longer slide that I use for that purpose.

    I think RSS makes excellent products and has awesome customer service but I don't really want to lead you in that direction unless cost really isn't an object. You will probably be happy with one of Manfrotto's better ball heads for a lot less money.

    John

  12. #12

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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    I got a Manfrotto MH054MO-Q5 with quick release plate.
    Solid rock for my 7D, flash bracket, flash, 70-200 mm lens,.
    It is over my GITZO GT2541 or Mantrotto mono pod.
    This is the result of bringing all my gear to the shop, set it all up , tap it and feel it and come to the choice.

  13. #13
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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    Whatever head you decide on, I would recommend getting one with or equipping one with an Arca Compatible Quick Release system.

    Virtually all RRS, Markins and of course Arca heads have AC quick releases. There are many other manufacturers who sell heads with AC quick release systems including Kirk, Giottos and Flashpoint. Manfrotto heads usually come with the IMO markedly inferior RC2 quick release system but, the Manfrotto heads can be upgraded to Arca Compatibility using a Kirk Quick Release Clamp.

    http://www.kirkphoto.com/Universal-Q...se-Clamps.html

    Here is a quick RRS video on a RRS L bracket which is one of the reasons, but certainly not the only reason, that I like an AC head....

    http://reallyrightstuff.com/WebsiteInfo.aspx?fc=80
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 11th March 2013 at 05:06 AM.

  14. #14

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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    Quote Originally Posted by PhotomanJohn View Post
    Susan - I have included a photo of what I mean by balancing the camera and lens over the head. ...With the release on the ball head loose the camera can be slid back and forth until its weight is balanced.

    The comment about nodal point ... deals with taking multiple photos to splice together to make one panorama.

    I think RSS makes excellent products and has awesome customer service but I don't really want to lead you in that direction unless cost really isn't an object. You will probably be happy with one of Manfrotto's better ball heads for a lot less money.

    John
    Good Morning John!

    Thank you for your explanation of the plates and nodal point. These are in the realm of finer adjustments that I did not know existed. Makes a lot of sense though!

    The RRS BH-30 LR goes for $275, and I would be willing to spend that to get a "forever" head! However, they offer an optional QR plate for another $120 - have to figure out if I would need that, or will the lever release be OK.

    So, if I understand correctly, the optimum set-up includes a good head, a longer plate, and an L-bracket! Although my primary concern right now is the head itself, I am glad to know about the other things. Those I can always buy later, after the sticker shock for the head wears off! It always does...

    Thank you.
    Susan

  15. #15

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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    Whatever head you decide on, I would recommend getting one with or equipping one with an Arca Compatible Quick Release system.

    Virtually all RRS, Markins and of course Arca heads have AC quick releases. There are many other manufacturers who sell heads with AC quick release systems including Kirk, Giottos and Flashpoint. ... Manfrotto heads can be upgraded to Arca Compatibility using a Kirk Quick Release Clamp.

    http://www.kirkphoto.com/Universal-Q...se-Clamps.html

    Here is a quick RRS video on a RRS L bracket which is one of the reasons, but certainly not the only reason, that I like an AC head....

    http://reallyrightstuff.com/WebsiteInfo.aspx?fc=80
    Good Morning Richard,

    I looked at both links you sent, and they are both very helpful. Not sure how the Arca plate differs from the one I got with the Manfrotto head, other than using a knob vs levers, but the compatibility with other attachments is important in itself. The L-bracket makes a lot of sense, not only for maintaining your framing, but also for user-comfort. Turning the camera sideways with conventional mount is OK, but the fiddling around with everything afterwards can be annoying.

    I do try to take advantage of the company websites, but there is so much to sort through! Plus I only recently started looking at these companies. Guess it's easier to know about names that are more in the general public domain than those that the pros prefer! While I am far from being a pro (definitely novice status), I have always realized the benefit of knowing what options are out there, and buying the best I can afford.

    This has helped in my efforts to figure out what is the best choice for me. Thank you.

    Susan

  16. #16

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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    Susan: A good thing to do is to download the RRS catalogue, read the pull down "be a gear expert", some very good informantion on selecting equipment. From you post #14 the BH-30LR comes with a quick release clamp standard, as all their plates that mount to the camera are made for and only for that camera the standard plate is $60.00 and the L-bracket is $120.00 other brands make plates that can be used on every and all cameras brands.
    Also in that post you talked about a longer plate (bar), you would not need this, the weight of the 55-300mm is not that great and has no collar. What I would do is, the value of that bar and clamp $110.00 is to up to the BH-40LR II. That head will handle the big heavy 70-200mm f/2.8 with no problems, with the other head you would need that bar to help balance . Put the money in the bar or into a better head same costs in end your choice.
    I know something else to think about, as I said alot of us have been there, done that, wished we hadn't and still have the old stuff that we upgraded from (we call it backup as opposed to a mistake). Do not rush in, take some time to figure it out, not just the now but into the future. I have the D7000 and D600 and my big lens is the 70-300mm however I do at times look at that 70-200mm f.2.8 and I know that my rig will handle it as I upgraded to not what I needed at the time but beyond.

    Cheers:

    Allan

  17. #17

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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Polar01 View Post
    Susan: A good thing to do is to download the RRS catalogue, read the pull down "be a gear expert", some very good information on selecting equipment. From your post #14 the BH-30LR comes with a quick release clamp standard, as all their plates that mount to the camera are made for and only for that camera the standard plate is $60.00 and the L-bracket is $120.00 other brands make plates that can be used on every and all cameras brands.

    ...up to the BH-40LR II. That head will handle the big heavy 70-200mm f/2.8 with no problems, with the other head you would need that bar to help balance .

    Do not rush in, take some time to figure it out, not just the now but into the future. I have the D7000 and D600 and my big lens is the 70-300mm however I do at times look at that 70-200mm f.2.8 and I know that my rig will handle it as I upgraded to not what I needed at the time but beyond.
    Allan, I looked at the RRS "be a gear expert" - as you said, good information. Would you please explain the differences between the BH-30 and BH-40? According to their specs, the 30 will handle up to 15 pounds, and the longest lenses I could ever want are 8-10 pounds. And the specs state that either head will handle the 70-200 f/2.8 (weighs just under 3.5 pounds).My camera is around 1.5 pounds. And I cannot see ever being willing to spend $8,000-$10,000 for a lens! So unless there is some other difference that matters, why would it be good to upgrade to the 40?

    As you said, it is not a good idea to rush in, the less mistakes in the closet, the better! Thank you.

    Susan

  18. #18

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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    Susan you are right, both will handle the larger lens as stated in their write up. I myself like a larger one, more ease of use, that is the lever used to tighen and loosen the ball head. A larger longer lever is easier to move and requires less force to tighten and loosen pressure on the ball. Both the 30 and the 40 may lock with the same ft-pounds per inch, but with a lever with a longer throw it takes less effort to move it. I would suggest if you head into the city, try out the same make of ball head but a compact and a midsize one to see which one feels the best to use. Remember that you will be moving that lever everytime you adjust the camera on the head so get one that feels good on the thumb.
    RRS states with the quick release clamp that you can not tip over the head all the way, if you have an L-bracket you do not have to worry about tipping the head over to do a portrait.

    Cheers:

    Allan

  19. #19

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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    The Canon 100-400 mm and 70-200 f4 lenses and larger lenses etc come with tripod rings which move the centre of gravity forward so that the camera/lens combination is better balanced.

    Tripod Heads Help

    In my case I have quick release plate on both the camera as well as on the tripod ring, so that when using a shorter lens I use the camera plate, and with the 100-400 I use the lens tripod plate.
    Tripod rings are available for larger lens either as manufacturers product or copies

  20. #20
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    Re: Tripod Heads Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken MT View Post
    The Canon 100-400 mm and 70-200 f4 lenses and larger lenses etc come with tripod rings which move the centre of gravity forward so that the camera/lens combination is better balanced.

    Tripod Heads Help

    In my case I have quick release plate on both the camera as well as on the tripod ring, so that when using a shorter lens I use the camera plate, and with the 100-400 I use the lens tripod plate.
    Tripod rings are available for larger lens either as manufacturers product or copies
    I've successfully used this lens on a comparatively inexpensive Fotopro tripod and ball head for bird shots.

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